Cornel West – Hope on a Tightrope

Cornel West

“The vocation of the intellectual is to turn easy answers into critical questions and to put those critical questions to people with power.”

“The quest for truth, the quest for the good, the quest for the beautiful, all require us to let suffering speak, let victims be visible, and demand that social misery be put on the agenda of those with power. So to me, pursuing the life of the mind is inextricably linked with he struggle of those on the margins of society who have been dehumanized.” -Dr. Cornel West in Hope on a Tightrope

 

You can find more quotes from the book on this blog.

Palm Sunday: Rivalry Encased in Death (Matthew 26:20-27:26)

Flickr Credit Ricardo Cuppino

“So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:24–26)

The Story is not rigged

One of the ways we have heard these last events taught is that it all had to happen this way, but I want to raise the possibility that the game wasn’t rigged for Jesus. That these final events weren’t “destiny” as we often suppose, but rather the outworking of certain mechanism within human society that Jesus sought to unmask.** Continue reading

Death By Bread & Clothes Alone (Matthew 6:25-34)

Flickr Image Ken Pitts

Flickr credits – Ken Pitts

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.”
(Matthew 6:25–29 NRSV)

We have a tendency when we hear Jesus’ teachings to do one of two things:

  1. We Over-Spiritualize what he says and take it extremely literally.

So if I am in this camp and I read this text then quite honestly it becomes an excuse to be irresponsible, “Hey, I know we don’t have enough to take care of the bills, but we always squeak through some way. I know we don’t really have the money for it but doesn’t it say that God takes care of us, let’s just do it and trust that God will helps us out.” Continue reading

On God & Money: Who and What is in Service to Whom? (Matthew 6)

261840-Joel_Osteen_at_Dodger_Stadium

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:23–24)

The Splitting Apart

This past week news broke that the Joel Osteen’s mega-church called “Lakewood Church” in Houston Texas was robbed of $600,000 in offerings. These were the offerings they collected from their services on Saturday and Sunday. Each weekend there is about 40,000 people who attend Osteen’s church. If you’re not familiar with Osteen, he is considered to be one of today’s most popular “Health and Wealth” televangelists. His bestseller “Your Best Life Now” has sold more than $4 copies. He reportedly takes no salary from the church but makes about $55 million a year from book sales and lives in a mansion valued at almost $11 million. Continue reading

Whose Desire is Going to Run Us? Matthew 6:1-18

Left hands

We All Desire Another’s Desire

Like many kids growing up, I worked hard to gain the approval of my parents, teachers, friends and pastors.

One year in college when I ran for class president, I did it on a whim. I thought it would be funny to see if I could win (real noble cause). My hair was pretty big and bushy back then so I kind of stood out like a sore thumb with my bushy, curly hair. For my campaign slogans I hand drew pictures of a smiley face with curly hair that said “Give the Curly Head a Try” and I made flyers in a kind of ransom style that promised to withhold Dino Nuggets for ransom – a favorite in the cafeteria – unless I was delivered a victory. I even had one of my friends run up on stage after the college president spoke during a school assembly and yes into the microphone – “Vote for Wess Daniels class president!” He then ran off before he was caught.

And yes, I won and was class president for two years. I learned how to feed into certain desires of my friends and classmates, and they delivered back to me the reward I wanted – a victory in the election despite the fact that I may not have been the best candidate for it.

Wanting approval is pretty much a universal so far as I can tell. We all know we are wanted and loved. We all want to be recognized and known by another. Most of us would enjoy winning an election or a popularity contest if we could.

But what is approval and how does it shape us? Continue reading

On the Harm We Have Done

Here is a prayer from Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) that seems as timely as ever, and one we ought to be praying regularly, especially given the state of the church and its too often unfortunate behavior in American society and politics.

OUR Father, we look back on the years that are gone and shame and sorrow come upon us, for the harm we have done to others rises up in our memory to accuse us. Some we have seared with the fire of our lust, and some we have scorched by the heat of our anger. In some we helped to quench the glow of young ideals by our selfish pride and craft, and in some we have nipped the opening bloom of faith by the frost of our unbelief.

We might have followed thy blessed footsteps, O Christ, binding up the bruised hearts of our brothers and guiding the way ward passions of the young to firmer man hood. Instead, there are poor hearts now broken and darkened because they encountered us on the way, and some perhaps remember us only as the beginning of their misery or sin.

O God, we know that all our prayers can never bring back the past, and no tears can wash out the red marks with which we have scarred some life that stands before our memory with accusing eyes. Grant that at least a humble and pure life may grow out of our late contrition, that in the brief days still left to us we may comfort and heal where we have scorned and crushed. Change us by the power of thy saving grace from sources of evil into forces for good, that with all our strength we may fight the wrongs we have aided, and aid the right we have clogged. Grant us this boon, that for every harm we have done, we may do some brave act of salvation, and that for every soul that has stumbled or fallen through us, we may bring to thee some other weak or despairing one, whose strength has been renewed by our love, that so the face of thy Christ may smile upon us and the light within us may shine undimmed.

-Walter Rauschenbusch “For God and For the People.”